My Retractable Key Chain

Happy Thanksgiving! This one is bittersweet for me. Although I miss my Beloved and everything I did today made me think of past years when he was well; it is also gloriously the last holiday I have to share alone for the first time. I will still be alone next year but it will be my new version of normal and not the “Poor Girl Who Lost Her Husband’s” Thanksgiving.

Yesterday marked a year that he has been gone. A day I had been dreading since he passed last year. A year that all I could see ahead of me was depression and sadness. A day marking the end of a year I was pretty sure I was not going to survive. But God has plans for me.

God knew I would survive and thrive during this year of uncomfortable pain. He gave me tools–like the realization that I had been checking the temperature of the room and adjusting myself to make everyone else comfortable. I didn’t even occur to me that someone else should be adjusting the room to meet MY needs.

When I was doubting my purpose he gave me a job that makes me feel empowered and strong. A job that reminded me of why I got into animal care in the first place when I was doubting if it is what I wanted to do. A job where I am surrounded by love and understanding, even when I am having one of my crazy episodes. A job with co-workers that remind me of what it feels like to be worthy and accepted for being me.

When I wanted to walk away from cat sitting, I prayed He would tell me what I should do. He reminded me that I needed to work hard and build up my behavior work before rushing into quitting. I have to be truthful, I tried to act like I didn’t hear Him on that one. I was really hoping He would tell me to go ahead and jump. Everything had been pretty good up until that point, nothing too uncomfortable or life changing. I really wanted to just move in a new direction without knowing what was next but God kept throwing thoughts in my head to make me doubt that move. I finally got it when I heard the Dave Ramsey quote, “Listen, children do what feels good, adults devise a plan and follow it…” OK, God. I devised a plan to keep cat sitting while focusing hard on getting behavior clients.

I have been listening to an audio book and one thing really sounded familiar, like it was a new thought; but one that I heard before. The author said when you are doing nothing because you are afraid, force yourself to do something. The act of doing something small will help remind you that you have the skills needed and help you move forward. I am paraphrasing but that was the jist. My therapist has told me basically the same thing in the past when I didn’t want to go to parties or out. She said to tell yourself you are going for a set amount of time and when the time is up you can decide if you want to continue or go home. Spoiler alert, I almost always end up staying! Once I get there I realize that no one thinks I am stupid, ugly, over-dressed, under-dressed, etc. The act of getting there is all I need to remind myself that none of the stuff Frank is screaming in my head is true. So in other words, this is a tool that God put in my toolbox a long time ago. When I was looking around for the “dropping-my-main-source-of-income-and-hoping-for-the-best” tool, I found that one instead.

I am surrounded by people I love and who love me back, last year this time I really felt like my one true friend was gone. My eyes are open to my world, I am no longer trying to stay in the place where Albert led me. Turns out that the tools God has been given me were keys. I am instead looking forward down the hallway and seeing all the new exciting doors for me to open that only I have the key for.

So even though this Thanksgiving was bittersweet, I am thankful for it. I am in a really good place for the first time in a long time and I wouldn’t be here if my life had stayed the same. Turns out being uncomfortable has an important place in my life!

Nehemiah 8:10 Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Be a Suzie Sunshine!

Do you have thoughts of gratitude or griping throughout the day? Day 17 talks about how easy it is for our minds to turn to complaining. Do you think when you walk up people think–Oh no, here comes Debbie Downer? Or maybe they think that when they are having a tough time they should talk to you because you are always so positive. I know I hope to be Susie Sunshine!

The reflect for Day 17 is to write down my top three complaints for today. After I have written them down, I should count to 10 and reevaluate and redirect. I need to surrender my rights to those complaints and ask the Lord to change my heart or the situation. Believe it or not, this is not easy for me. I guess I try not to be a complainer so I don’t notice stuff unless it is really bad!

I don’t think it is because I have already given it to God. It goes back to my original posts about how I have always taken care of myself. In a way, I am second guessing whether I have the right to complain about anything. Complaining doesn’t do any good, it just ruins the rest of the day so it is a waste of time and energy. Best to continue on and keep making things happen, right?

The point is a good one anyway. I think I am going to make it a habit to pay attention to when things that are worthy of complaint and redirect them to God instead of just making myself think they are not important enough to worry about it. It won’t be worry if I give it to God!

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the taste and health to the body. Proverbs 16:26

Hiding my light under a basket

Hi there! I was not planning on writing today but something happened that is threatening to send me into a spin. Jesus tells a parable about not lighting a lamp to cover it or put it under the bed but put it on a table so it can shine it’s light everywhere. Although not exactly what he meant, I feel like telling my story out loud is like putting that lamp out where it’s light will touch everyone around me. If I don’t talk about the grief or the anxiety when it hits me, it is akin to putting that light under a basket where I will know it is there but it won’t be seen and won’t be able to help anyone see the way.

My cousin sent me a Facebook invite to the annual Thanksgiving family Football game. It brought back memories of all the years previous with my Beloved and how much he looked forward to this tradition. I remembered when he threw a snow ball into the megaphone my Aunt was using to cheer her team (not his team!) during the first game he had participated in and how I was mortified and certain that no one would ever want me to bring him anywhere after that. Of course, everyone loved him and maybe even more because he stood up for his team even when he probably didn’t even know the names of the people he was playing with yet! I remembered how every year when we got the invitation he would say he wasn’t playing this year, he was too sore after last year’s game, blah blah blah. And then we would go and he would play. I remember that he never told me if his team won or lost, just about all the fun things that happened or how different people did stuff on the field. I remembered that last year he was barely walking and the idea of bringing him to this state park with its dirt road and grassy fields was too much to even plan. Even when Al was just getting to know us, he was a part of the family when it came to playing football. After crying on the couch, I responded to her invite with an enthusiastic “Can’t wait!” (Fake it till you make it, right?!) And I can’t wait for real. Even though every part of me wants to spend this holiday alone in my pjs, I don’t think that is what I am meant to do. My sister in law always tells me “Life is for the living, go live!

My Pastor talked about forgiveness in the last sermon and how it is truly for the person who is holding the grudge. I realized while he spoke that I am holding a grudge against Al for leaving me here to go through all this alone. I know it isn’t realistic to be mad at someone for something they couldn’t control, and I am sure if he could have Al would be here. Still, I need to be angry at someone so why not be mad at someone who can’t fight back or defend themselves, right? I wrote Al’s name on a piece of paper and put it at the foot of the cross. Symbolic but also part of my memory now. Whenever I start to feel that anger bubbling up I recall writing his name down and giving it to God to take away the feelings of hurt. Maybe it is simplistic, but that truly helps me to stop and thank God for the experience.

I am trying my hardest to be a light in the darkness for those who will go through this experience. It isn’t always easy (actually, it is almost always NOT easy!) but God gave me the power of a voice while Al was sick and I don’t think it was a tool he wanted me to use then and discard after!

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Nehamiah 8:10

The Highs and Lows

Day 16 talks about the highs and lows in my days. More specifically, being thankful for the highs and lows in every day life. It is easy to be thankful for the good stuff and ignore or even be mad at God when bad things happen (even “simple” things like a missed cab or getting cut off in the grocery store!). But just like all the other days, having a grateful heart revolves around being able to recognize and appreciate that sometimes bad things happen but they are all for the purpose of making you the person God knows you should be.

When my kids were little, we had a practice of starting each dinner by going around the table and talking about our days. Each person would say something bad that happened, something good that happened, and how they would make tomorrow better. They were not allowed to say anything insignificant or lame. I know that even small things can make a big impact in our day but truthfully, they were likely to say something just to have their turn be over. By making them pick something significant, I was making them really think about the responses before they gave them. The point in starting this tradition was not to instill a grateful heart inside them but rather to have an opening to let them tell me about their day without being a nag or without them saying “fine” when I asked how their day had been. Now that my daughters have children of their own, they have told me they wanted to have that same talk over the dinner table when the kids were old enough. They recognize that it was a good way to have a conversation with moody kids!

I would like to say that I practice gratitude in all parts of my life but I would be lying. I am grateful for the difficult stuff when I am writing in this blog but not in every day life. A new habit I need to get into is saying thank you when someone cuts me off at the grocery store. Maybe I will get back into the habit from long ago and tell God the good the bad and how tomorrow will be better!

Give thanks to our Lord, for he is good. His faithful love endures forever. And say “Save us God of our salvation, gather us and rescue us from the nations so that we may give thanks to your holy name and rejoice in your praise.

1 Chronicles 16:34-35

It’s Not Real!

I have been struggling with anxiety so much lately. I spend the whole day and sometimes the next day crying or on the verge of tears. The thing is, I know what ever it is that I am upset about is not true or not real. I get this little voice in my head that tells me some little untruth and that is all I need to start spiraling out of control.

I am like a little kid on an Easter egg hunt. I run around with my basket and pick up all the untruths to drop in. I sit at the end of the Easter egg hunt with my basket of lies and look around at the other people with the other baskets. Except I am not happy or proud that my basket is fuller than everyone else’s. Actually, I can’t breath and I can’t move because the basket is full of all these heavy boulders. I look around and everyone is laughing because I didn’t pick up any eggs at all. They were all rocks that I mistook for eggs. It’s not real!

The Bible says “…  if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. ” (Matthew 17:20) The devil knows this and has told me I don’t need to read my devotionals and I don’t need to write in my blog. I don’t go out except to work because I don’t want to run into anyone and have to explain why I am carrying around these useless rocks. When I do interact with anyone, the devil is certain to plant a little untruth in my head so I can run with it. Except I foiled his plan today–I went to church and heard the word of God. Pastor Darren always begins the sermon with a prayer for our time. And you know what he says? He says Thank you God for your word and thank you that it is true…

After the service I talked to a friend about my crippling anxiety. She confided that she also fights with irrational fears. Actually, it turns out that everyone I have talked to is struggling with a very similar problem. Satan is a busy little bug! Anyway, back to my friend. She told me that her husband likened the anxiety to a mosquito. It buzzes around in your ear and can’t really do anything (I mean, besides like malaria or that new infection EEE but that is SO not the point!) but it irritates you and ruins your plans. I have always thought of my anxiety like a guy in the back corner of my mind (Frank) sitting in a room playing solitaire. Every now and then (more often lately) Frank comes out of his room and whispers stuff to me so he can start up some drama. When I finally get a hold of his lies, he goes back into his room. Always there, lurking in the background and waiting for the next opportunity to try and ruin my plans.

I left church and talked to some of my coworkers about it. I explained to them that I get these irrational fears and they just blow up. I asked them to, if they see that I am spinning out of control, remind me that it isn’t real. But I don’t think it will be much of a problem, I am writing in my blog and I am going to put the Bible on audio so I hear it even when I am asleep. (Did I mention that I wake up at 2 am almost every night lately?!) Tomorrow I am going to take a walk to the beach (another something Frank has talked me out of doing) and I will go back to reading my Bible and thanking God for all the good and the bad in my life. It isn’t going to be smooth sailing; Frank senses when I am just a little weak and comes right out. Hopefully, though, when that happens I will recognize it and pull out my index card that I wrote the verse about moving mountains on. I will flip it over and see the words in capital letters IT’S NOT REAL!!!

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8 NSB

Is it Day 15 already?!

Hi there! Welcome to Day 15 of 21 days to cultivate a grateful heart. Day 15 was a hard one for me because it talks about something I definitely should be doing but don’t always remember to do…Thank God before my meals.

It isn’t that I am not thankful. Actually, I typically thank God in the morning for all the parts of my day. Doesn’t that include meals? So praying before eating is like doubling up on my prayer in the morning.

Do you pray before you eat? And is it every time you eat or just when you are having meals? I mean, I like to get a candy bar when I go to the store and eat it in the car on my way home. Should I pray before I open that?

I guess there is no right or wrong answer. Just being thankful for the little things helps to have a grateful heart. Even those M&Ms you just ate!

Off the rails!

Hi there! I am not writing about day 15 of my 21 days of gratitude today because I have something else to talk about. I wasn’t going to “bother you” with this, but then I remembered that I am not trying to be a peacemaker at my own expense anymore. So without further adu…

Standing up for myself and saying what I really feel is not an easy habit to get into. I have actually had times where I have said, “I’m fine” and then turned around as I am walking away to say “actually…” It isn’t that I don’t want to say how I really feel. I don’t actually know what is holding me back!

Maybe I am afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings. Even though I am putting my self first (for the first time in a long time) I still can’t seem to shake the feeling that my opinion or whatever it is will hurt the other person. Then I am not going to feel good, and isn’t that the point of putting myself first?!

And who am I to think my opinion is that important anyway? Maybe no one actually cares what I think and they are only asking because it is the right thing to do. That last part is my crazy, Frank, trying to cause trouble but he has a point! People routinely ask “how are you doing?” when they don’t actually care how I am doing. It is just a polite way to start a conversation. Maybe asking someone’s opinion is being nice because I am there but if I wasn’t it isn’t like that person would think I am going to see what Amanda thinks and call me! But my opinion does matter to some people and I am usually knowledgeable. If I don’t know I will find out and get back to them.

How I approach a situation is another piece in this puzzle. Instead of thinking about what I can say that will make the other person happy without lying of course or/and will keep the good vibes in the room going strong, I need to think about how I actually FEEL about the situation. And instead of just blurting that out, I also need to think about how the other person will react. Not that I am censoring myself anymore, but I don’t have to be a jerk about it, either!

The other part of this is being able to read people. I have always noticed how people are standing or what expressions they have on their face, mostly so I can tell if what I am saying is upsetting them or agitating them. I can change course quickly before it becomes a wave that crashes over the situation and wipes away any happiness or calm. Except now, I need to read their emotions so I can prepare to defend my opinion if they seem like they don’t agree. But still share my opinion, no matter what the body language is telling me.

It is a learning curve, for sure. I learned how to say exactly the right thing most of the time, even if it wasn’t actually how I felt. Learning how to say how I feel without alienating my friends and making people think I am some stuck up jerk will take time but it is doable!